Monday, July 18, 2016

Identity in Christ

July 18, 2016

Discussion in our men's Bible study group tonight was particularly interesting. We've been working through a study on how as Christians we engage our culture. This evening, pastor Joe started us out by encouraging us to pray for our bishop Mark Webb, who is standing firm for Biblical and orthodox Wesleyan Christianity in the face of our denomination's Western Jurisdiction's electing in clear violation of our Discipline an openly-avowed lesbian bishop who is married to her wife. We talked about how we can stand for our faith without being judgmental, and if that in fact is even possible, given the political and social mindset of the country.

I'm going out on a limb here that may be offensive to some, but it's what I believe. The problem with much of the discussion I hear about human sexuality is that as Christians, we have abandoned Biblical language and perspective. We've let the culture determine the categories by which we arrange life, instead of maintaining the Biblical point of view. I know some will consider me hopelessly out of touch, an intellectual throwback, but I'm OK with that.

We have taken certain behaviors and turned them into identities. According to society, a person doesn't engage in homosexual acts; he is a homosexual. From a Christian perspective, there are only two identities: either I am in Adam, or in Christ. Everything else is behavioral. The Bible says absolutely nothing about homosexuality as an identity. The reason for this is not that it has nothing to say about the matter, but that it frames the discussion differently. The term "homosexual," and its derivatives has only been around for about a hundred and fifty years. Prior to that, even the secular world spoke of certain sexual behaviors, not of sexual identities. People engaged in homosexual acts; they weren't identified as homosexual people. The same is true of heterosexual behavior. A person was an adulterer, not because he or she identified as such, but because of adulterous behavior. The bad news is that we cannot evade responsibility for our behavior by claiming that "this is who I am; God made me this way." The good news in this is that by the grace of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit, we can change any behavior, but only after we have changed our identity from Adam to Christ.

I have friends who identify as gay or lesbian; I know that there are many who add other designations to their identity. And I am aware that my opinion will appear offensive or judgmental to them. As much as I would like, I cannot escape the offense, but I can say that I take my stand with no sense of judgment. Others are free to believe what our culture is saying, just as I am free to reject it. While I state my belief, I refuse to sit in judgment over someone else; that's God's job, not mine. My concern is not how people categorize themselves; my concern is only whether your identity comes from Adam or from Christ. Get that right, and everything else will fall into place. Tonight, I am grateful for the conversation we had, and for Jesus Christ who took me from my identity as a sinner after Adam, and gave me a new name, a new family, and a new future as a Christian.

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